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A Brief History of Competitive Archery

by Scott Byers

Archery is one of the oldest sports that are still being practiced today. The bow and arrow can be traced back as far as the Paleolithic era (35,000 to 8000 B.C.), and is the most widely used weapon in human history.

While there is recorded evidence of archery contests taking place in china more than 3000 years ago, the modern sport of target archery most likely originated in England during the 14th century.

During this time, the longbow was considered the English army's most important weapon. This was mostly due to its long range capabilities, the likes of which swords and spears do not possess.

In fact, archery became so important in England during this time that a royal decree of 1363 obliged all Englishmen to practice archery on Sundays and holidays, whether they wanted to or not.

During this time there were a few different styles of shooting, some of which evolved into what we see today in the sport of archery.

There was clout shooting, in which arrows were arched high into the air with the intention of hitting a target which was laid flat, not vertical. The aim was to land the arrow as close to the target as possible. This variety of shooting is still practiced today, often with traditional bows.

a boy practicing archery a boy practicing archery

"Roving marks", another style, saw archers shooting at a target, only to shoot at a new target from the location of the previous target. This is often cited as the oldest form of competitive archery, and was practiced by Henry VIII.

Finally, there was butt shooting, in which "butts" (composed of turfs of earth) held targets, which the archers would shoot at. This is the ancestor of modern day Olympic target shooting.

Archery was a part of the second Olympic Games, held in 1900. It was dropped after 1920, however, because rules varied too much between nations. Archery in the Olympics was not restored until 1972. This was after enough nations had formed archery governing bodies affiliated with the Fédération Internationale de Tir l'Arc, which was founded in Paris in 1932 to standardize rules for international competition.

From its early history to modern times, archery has always been a competitive sport, in addition to a vital weapon. Surely, many years from now archery will continue to be a popular sport reaching across age gaps and national borders, uniting archers from all over the world.

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